Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Preparing for Pregnancy Before You Get Pregnant


Written by Meaghan Maess, Buffalo State College student and communications intern at Catholic Health

Having a baby is one of the most rewarding experiences in a parent’s life – but it can also be among the most challenging. To ease your transition into parenthood, prepare for your new arrival before you try to conceive.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

Having a healthy weight increases the chances of conception and will reduce the risk of complications during pregnancy. The best way to determine if you are at a healthy weight is to consult your doctor. To get a general idea, use a Body Mass Index calculator or Waist-to-Hip ratio calculator.  

Eat a Healthy Diet

A healthy diet should include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy and protein. Saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, added sugars and salt should be kept to a minimum.

"It is important to let your health care provider know what your dietary habits are," says Dr. Scott Zuccala, who practices at Mercy Hospital of Buffalo and the Hamburg OB/GYN Group.

"Even if one is a vegetarian, there are ways to maintain an adequate dietary intake."

To learn more about healthy eating, read our smart eating series, or see our Pinterest boards for nutritious recipes approved by our Registered Dietitians.

Consume Nutrients

While pregnant women need to increase their intake of the nutrients below, it’s never too early to get your levels on track.

Talk to your doctor to make sure that you’re getting the right amount of nutrients for you and your baby.

Calcium: During pregnancy, your developing baby will use calcium for bone growth. Most women do not get enough calcium, so it’s important to increase your intake to avoid losing bone density. Pregnant women need between 1000 and 1300 mg of calcium a day, about the equivalent of 3 to 4 servings of milk.

Calcium can be found in dairy products, tofu, salmon and leafy green vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, cabbage and lettuce.

"If you are getting enough calcium from your diet, supplements are not necessarily good," says Dr. Zuccala.

Speak to your physician before taking supplements.

Iron: In pregnant women and their developing babies, iron helps the blood carry oxygen. Iron can be found in eggs, enriched grains, fish, poultry, red meat, liver and leafy green vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, cabbage and lettuce.

Folic Acid: "Folic acid helps to prevent neural tube or brain development defects such as spina bifida," says Dr. Zuccala. "This is one of the birth defects that an expectant mother can potentially modify. The American College of OBGYN guidelines state that women of reproductive age should take a 400 ug folic acid supplement. For women at high risk, a 4 to 5 mg dose is recommended."

Folic acid can also be found in lean meat, grains, nuts, beans, citrus fruits and leafy green vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, cabbage and lettuce.

Visit Your Healthcare Provider

If you have chronic health problems, your doctor can help you get them under control before pregnancy. There may also be immunizations or tests you should have before pregnancy, such as rubella, chicken pox and tests for herpes and other viruses.

If you don’t have a primary care physician, call HealthConnection or search our online physician directory.

Visit Your Dentist

The bacteria that causes gingivitis is suspected of causing premature labor. The increase in hormones during pregnancy also affects oral health, increasing your risk for developing gingivitis.

"Gingivitis, the inflammation of the gums, is a very under-diagnosed and thus under-treated portion of healthcare that can have very serious consequences. The healthcare team that takes care of the mother and fetus needs to look at the whole picture,” says Dr. Zuccala.

Decrease Stress

Stress can lead to problems with infertility. Practicing mindfulness, thinking positively and focusing on your senses are all good tactics for reducing stress and anxiety in your life.  

Don't Smoke or Drink

Alcohol and cigarettes are detrimental to your health and the health of your baby. Smoking and heavy drinking is also linked to fertility issues in men.

"The new policy by the American College of OBGYN states that no amount of alcohol or tobacco during pregnancy is safe," says Dr. Zuccala. "The unborn fetus is passive and has no choice but to ingest what the mother does."

Consider Natural Family Planning

Natural Family Planning is a natural method for achieving pregnancy. It teaches women to observe and chart changes in their body to learn about their fertility patterns. To learn more, read Strengthen Your Marriage with Natural Family Planning.


Preparing your body for pregnancy can reduce risks of complications and make sure mother and baby are healthy and happy.

You can learn more about pregnancy at Catholic Health's Pregnancy Resource Center.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Ask Us Anything: How Often Will I Have to Visit My Doctor During My Pregnancy?

"How often will I have to visit my doctor during my pregnancy? How long are the visits?"

Dr. Bruce Rodgers Responds:

For routine obstetrical care, prenatal visits are every 4 weeks until 24 weeks, every 2 weeks until 35-36 weeks and then weekly thereafter.

The first prenatal visit will be at least 45-60 minutes since it involves a careful history, examination, pap smears, blood work and discussion about issues such as nutrition. Subsequent visits are generally only 5-10 minutes if no problems are encountered.

Interspersed with prenatal visits are ultrasounds. Most patients in the United States have one ultrasound in the first trimester where Down syndrome screening is offered and a second ultrasound around 18 weeks to assess the baby’s growth and anatomy. If you go past your due date, you will generally have another ultrasound. 

Risk pregnancies require many more visits, the number and duration of each depending on the clinical situation.

 – Dr. Bruce Rodgers

Dr. Rodgers is the Director of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at Catholic Health and Director of the Fetal Testing Unit at Sisters of Charity Hospital in Buffalo.

If you have a question about your health, click here to ask our experts.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

10 Places to Visit This Winter for $15 or Less

For many people, winter doesn’t just bring about snow. Weight gain in the cold-weather months is a real concern, as we exercise less, spend more time indoors and eat pastas and other comfort foods.

This winter, get moving by exploring Western New York’s best indoor attractions.


1. Aquarium of Niagara (Niagara Falls)

Time: Daily: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Cost: $10 for adults, $6 for children 3-6
More Information: Website

Don’t miss the seahorse exhibit on the second floor. Plus, watch penguin feedings at 10 a.m. or 3 p.m. and catch a sea lion show at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. or 3:30 p.m. Sharks are fed on opposite days at 11:30 a.m.

Building maintenance may affect scheduled programming, so call ahead of time to confirm the day’s schedule.

2. Buffalo Museum of Science (Buffalo)

Time: Daily: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Cost: $9 for adults, $7 for children ages 2-17
More Information: Website

Learn the science behind snowflakes, predict the weather using meterology, and find out how scientists study fossil evidence. You can also explore anatomy and genetics at the museum’s Independent Health exhibit.

3. Explore and More (East Aurora)

Time: Wednesday - Saturday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday: 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Cost: $5, Free for children under the age of 1
More Information: Website

A children’s museum in East Aurora, Explore and More is designed for children ages 1 to 10 and features exhibits about architecture, culture, food and art. Children can design and build a house, find out where food comes from and learn about cultures from around the world, including Mexico and the Netherlands.

4. Bounce Magic (Orchard Park, Amherst)

Time: Orchard Park: Monday – Friday: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday: 12 p.m. to 9 p.m., Amherst: Thursday – Monday: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Cost: Orchard Park: $10, Amherst: $12
More Information: Website

Rediscover “play.” Slide down an inflatable slide, jump in a bounce house, or play arcade games or mini golf. Bounce Magic in Orchard Park and Amherst open play every day, so you can stay and play for as long as you like.

5. Buffalo History Museum (Buffalo)

Time: Tuesday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Thursday – Saturday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday: 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Cost: $7 for adults, $2.50 for children 7 to 12
More Information: Website

The history museum’s Origins exhibit displays some of the museum’s earliest artifacts and closes in early March. Its Ever After exhibit displays rarely-seen artifacts owned by the museum and the Street of Shops takes you on a tour of 19th century businesses, including Buffalo Savings Bank. You’ll also see Millard Fillmore’s carriage.

Schedule your visit on a weekend when the trains are running. The train display includes a scale Erie Canal lock and 100 miniature buildings portraying 19th century Buffalo and Western New York.

6. Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site (Buffalo)

Time: Tours scheduled hourly, beginning at 9:30 a.m. weekdays and 12:30 p.m. weekends. Last tour: 3:30 p.m.
Cost: $10 for adults, $5 for children ages 6-18
More Information: Website

Journey to the 1901 Pan-American Exposition, where you’ll see the electric lights that lit the grounds and can watch a period film clip. You’ll stand in the room where Theodore Roosevelt was sworn in as the 26th president of the United States and see where he wrote his first official proclamation as President of the United States.

7. Martin House Complex (Buffalo)

Time: Daily: hours vary by month
Cost: $15 for a basic tour
More Information: Website

Learn about famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright on a tour of the Martin House in Buffalo, originally built in 1907. On the basic tour, you’ll survey the exterior of the house, tour the floor spaces of the Martin House and proceed down the pergola and into the lush, plant-filled conservatory with the Nike in its focal niche. Finally, you’ll visit the extraordinary carriage house and Wisteria Museum Shop.

8. Skyzone (Cheektowaga)

Time: Daily: Monday - Thursday 3 p.m. to 8 p.m., Friday 3 p.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Cost: $14 for 60 minute open jump
More Information: Website

Skyzone is an indoor trampoline park that makes it fun to exercise. Open jump allows access to Skyzone's main court, sky slam basketball, a foam pit and 3D Dodgeball. The entire interior is connected by trampolines, and you can literally bounce off the walls.

9. West Side Bazaar (Buffalo)

Time: Tuesday – Friday: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Cost: Free; most merchandise $20 or less
More Information: Website

The West Side Bazaar has 22 booths and a kitchen, offering authentic ethnic cuisine, jewelry and fashion items. Check out JJ Jam's, Queen City Sweetz, Moon Lady's Arts and Crafts, Pearl's Seeds and many others.

West Side Bazaar is part of the Westminster Economic Development Initiative, an organization that empowers individuals, especially refugees and immigrants, to take charge of their financial future. It provides a low-risk opportunity to start a business and offers mentoring, networking and loan opportunities to its participants.

10. Niagara Climbing Center (North Tonawanda)

Time: Monday – Friday: 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday: 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Cost: $15 for unlimited day pass, special rates available for kids, students and groups
More Information: Website

Niagara Climbing Center is for every level of climber, from beginner to expert and has 30 different wall stations, each 20 feet high, and features to build skill, such as roofs and bulges.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Ask Us Anything: How is Cervical Dysplasia Treated?

"How is cervical dysplasia treated?"

Beth Nicastro, Corporate Nurse Educator, Responds:

Cervical dysplasia is the abnormal growth of precancerous cells on the surface of the cervix. This condition is most often seen in women ages 25 - 35, but can develop at any age. The follow-up testing after an abnormal pap smear depends on your age and the grade of dysplasia.

Dysplasia is graded as mild, moderate or severe. Mild dysplasia usually goes away on its own. Moderate and severe indicate more dramatic changes. Without treatment, severe cervical dysplasia could develop into invasive cancer. However, it may take many years for this to occur.

Treatment for moderate-to-severe dysplasia includes:
  • Cryosurgery to freeze abnormal cells
  • Laser therapy, which uses light to burn away abnormal tissue
  • LEEP (loop electrosurgical excision procedure), which uses electricity to remove abnormal tissue (See: electrocauterization)
  • Surgery to remove the abnormal tissue (cone biopsy)
Rarely, a hysterectomy may be needed. If you have had dysplasia, you will need 3 to 6 month follow-ups or as recommended by your physician. It is important to consult with your Obstetrician-Gynecologist.

For additional references consult:

– Beth Nicastro

Beth Nicastro, PNP-BC, is a women's health community coordinator/educator. She also sees patients as a nurse practitioner at East Aurora Pediatrics.

If you have a question about your health, click here to ask our experts.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Healthy Recipes for Lent

Fresh fish is a healthier alternative to greasy fish fries this Lent.

Fish contain omega-3 fatty acids, which can lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart attack, and for pregnant women, aid in newborn development.

Pregnant women should limit tuna fish to 6 ounces per week, and NOT eat swordfish, shark, king mackerel or tilefish.

What to Look for When Buying Fish

Here are some things to keep in mind when purchasing fish from the grocery store.

Whole Fish

  • The eyes should be bright, clear and protruding. Avoid fish eyes that are dull, hazy or sunken.
  • The skin should be moist and shiny.
  • The gills should be either red or pink.
  • The flesh should be firm and elastic to the touch.
  • The odor should be fresh and mild (not fishy or sour).

Fillets or Steaks

  • The flesh should be moist and free from any discoloration.
  • The skin should be shiny and resilient.
  • The odor should be fresh and mild. Avoid fish that have a fishy or sour smell.

Frozen Fish 

  • The package should have its original shape and the wrapper should be intact.
  • The skin and flesh should not have ice crystals, visible blood or discoloration.

Expiration Date

Fish should be eaten within 1 to 2 days. Lean fish can be eaten within 6 to 8 months of being frozen, fatty fish within 3 months.

Healthy Recipes for Lent

To help you get the most out of Lent, we’ve created a Pinterest board full of healthy fish recipes approved by Deborah Richter, a registered dietitian at Sisters of Charity Hospital, St. Joseph Campus in Cheektowaga. Check out the recipes below.

Lemony Fish and Cucumbers
Pistachio-Crusted Fish Fillets
Vegetable Fish Dinner
Baked Fish Fillets
Citrus Fish
Fish with Fennel
Grilled Spiced Fish
Herbed Tomato Fish Bake
Asparagus Fish Bundles
Island Spiced Salmon

Monday, February 11, 2013

Ask Us Anything: Does Menopause Cause Depression?

"Does menopause effect your mental status? Can you get depressed due to lack of hormonal imbalances?"

Herb Weis PhD of Horizon Health Services responds:

Yes, both psychologically and physiologically.

For many women, menopause presents emotional challenges since their ability to have children may have become central to their sense of identity as a woman. This is particularly true for women who do not have careers outside of the home. It is akin to the challenges men often face when they retire.

Additionally, since our emotions are regulated in large part by our hormones, the hormonal changes associated with this period can result in the mood fluctuations that are well recognized.

Finally, these emotional and physiological challenges are often complicated by negative reactions from partners and others who don’t understand the reasons for the woman’s emotional instability.

Your gynecologist should be a good resource for further information.

— Herb Weis PhD

Horizon Health Services provides counseling at the Piver Center on the campus of Sisters of Charity Hospital in Buffalo and at locations throughout Western New York. Most insurances, including Medicaid, are accepted.

If you have a question about your health, click here to ask our experts.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Free Breast Cancer Screening on February 16


Mammograms are recommended yearly for women over the age of 40. But for women without insurance, paying for a regular mammogram can be a challenge.

That's why Catholic Health and Erie County Cancer Services have teamed up to offer a free breast cancer screening, taking place from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, February 16 at the M. Steven Piver, M.D. Center for Women’s Health & Wellness (Seton Professional Building on the Sisters Hospital campus, 2121 Main Street, Suite 100, Buffalo, NY 14214).

The screening is open to women without insurance over the age of 40.

Cancer Services Program will cover any follow-up testing and treatment if needed.

Appointments are limited, so those interested should call for an appointment right away. Appointments can be made by calling HealthConnection at (716) 706-2112.

If you need to be convinced, consider the story of Buffalo resident Ann Dyson. She attended a previous Catholic Health screening, when a mammogram detected a cancerous lump.

"Without this program, I know that I would be walking around with undetected cancer, with no possibility of hope," she said. "I will be forever grateful to those who found my cancer."

Click on the video below to hear her story.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, Also Known as "Crib Death"

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), the sudden and unexplained death of an infant, affects babies less than a year old, with ages up to four months being most at risk.

Parents can help to prevent SIDs by following safe sleep practices. The video below, recommended by maternity nurses at Sisters of Charity Hospital and Mercy Hospital of Buffalo, explains how.


Video Highlights

  • Babies should always sleep on their backs. When putting your baby to sleep, position your infant on his or her back, even for quick naps.
  • Let your baby have "tummy time" when he or she is awake. Babies need to sleep on their backs, but they need "tummy time" when they're awake to help their muscles develop and prevent the chance of flat spots developing on their heads.
  • Remove all loose objects from the crib. Baby should sleep on a mattress with a fitted sheet – that's it. Remove all toys and pillows at nap time, including bumper pads. To keep loose blankets from being over or under your baby at nap time, use blanket sleepers. Don't wrap your baby in blankets during sleep time – it can be dangerous.

    A Halo Sleep Sack, a wearable baby blanket that replaces loose blankets in the crib, is provided to all newborns at Sisters Hospital.
  • Avoid overheating the baby. Raising the thermostat to high or bundling your baby can overheat him or her and increase the risk for SIDS.
  • Be wary of safety products. Avoid safety products that claim to reduce the risk of SIDS. Most haven't been safety tested.
  • Give your baby his or her own sleeping area. Babies should not sleep in a bed with someone or in a crib with other babies. Babies can sleep in the same room as someone else, beside the bed, but not in the same sleeping area.
  • If giving a pacifier at bedtime, don't force your baby to take it. The pacifier should be clean and dry. If it pops out during sleep, leave it out. If breastfeeding, wait until the baby is used to breastfeeding before introducing a pacifier.
  • Breastfeed. Breastfeeding can help to reduce the risk of SIDS.
Do you have questions about SIDS? Submit your question in the comments section and one of our nurses will respond.
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